Posted by: MC | December 11, 2011

Priming the EX:Change

Down the street @ Bloke http://blokepdx.com/, Justin-the-botanical-artist is well beyond priming – that happened back in October [EX:C blog, “Bloke – AKA, Barber Babes Redux,” 10-29-2011].  Now, since a few weeks before Thanksgiving, Bloke is hitting its prime for the cold weather Holiday season – the festivities that cry for decorative plants and flowers between Halloween and New Year’s Day.  Every time I see him these days, Justin is a little breathless, but he’s smiling and radiant nonetheless.

Bloke and Justin are in the zone – that seemingly enigmatic flow, not so much of everything going perfectly, but of being out of one’s own way so the flawless unfolding of events can move on through.

It’s looking like comparative prime time is on the way for EX:Change in the form of opportunities big and small for listening and speaking across difference.  On January 21, 2012 the next EX:Change journey will begin.  Details and itinerary will follow soon since I am nothing but devoted and thrilled to be returning 100 VOICES – AMERICANS TALK ABOUT CHANGE to the country from which it has come.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/100-Voices-Americans-Talk-About-Change/111378542298480

The 100 voices in this book, collected between January 21 and April 30 of 2009, were always for all of us.  Even as these Americans spoke for themselves, they spoke to us all.  Now they can be read or heard by anyone.

The most powerful message these words carry is that it is possible to listen across our differences – and not only possible, but more than worth it.  Over the time I spent driving around the country listening to the 100, I was profoundly affected by this message.  Directly from the people themselves, I was given evidence of the vast energy, creativity and intelligence among us.  It wasn’t showy or shiny.  It wasn’t unreachably elite or romantically humble.  It was just a matter of fact.

Based on the hopes and ideas of these 100 Americans, it seems very likely that we-the-people share way more than most media and public leaders lead us to believe.  Their words indicate that with few exceptions we share great commitment to the wellbeing of our families, children, and communities.  We would like to see war end and water clean.  We want youth to have education and adults to have employment.  We want our elected officials to listen to us.  We want them to demonstrate wisdom and maturity.  We are willing to do our parts to see all of these wants to reality, and we understand we don’t have a lot of time to mess around.

Something that wasn’t matter-of-fact, however, was any opportunity for individual voices to know that others share these values with them – particularly others who any of the 100 would tag as “on the other side.”  The sides are familiar – liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, rich/working or poor, black/white/brown/Native/Asian, urban/rural, thin/fat, living with disability/able-bodied, trans/intersex/gay/straight, male/female, young/old….  Yes, familiar and when extended to schools, neighborhoods, hospitals, or office buildings, the list goes on and on.

It is no waste to wonder who all this polarizing serves, but that’s another blog.

Back to 100 VOICES – the whole ’09 EX:Change trip revealed that when we take the risk to listen and speak across our differences – to take down our guard or peer around our masks of “I can’t listen to you, you’re one of them” – two things (at least) await.

  1. We find friends, or at least allies, we never imagined were possible, and
  2. We sense significantly greater possibility for positive change.

That’s major!  But don’t believe me – read the book or, even better, read the book AND set up a situation where you are listening to someone you tend to write off as “other.”  Then become a part of this next EX:Change journey; it’s all about checking to see if this listening and speaking really does deliver on those two things I just listed.

One way or another, the second EX:Change will provide opportunities for people to spend time together in conversations across differences.  Some of the gatherings will include people who vary significantly; others may appear to include people who are very much the same – but there are always differences.  And all practice with this kind of listening makes a difference.  Or does it?  That’s the question.

I can’t know exactly how any of this is going to look, but it sure seems worth a try.  AND I CAN USE YOUR HELP and IDEAS.  Write me with a comment on this site or at mary@exchange09.com.  Let me know if you are part of or have access to a community, church, book club, university/college, work (…) group – or if you’d be up for pulling a group together for one of these EX:Changes.  That will help us plan the EX:C itinerary and really grow this initiative of bringing every voice into the listening and speaking – and initiative that can help us to reclaim and recharge our democracy.

At the end of the video my friend Jesse made of the book release event [EX:C blog, “Video of This Week’s Book Release Event,” 10-9-2011] we wrote these words:

“Join us in the radical act of listening.”

Given the circumstances of our communities, country and world such a call is both an opportunity and a vote of confidence in the intelligence and good heartedness of most everyone walking the planet.  Maybe there are exceptions; there is certainly evidence that opportunism and power-over have their seduction.  There is also evidence that the numbers are small by comparison.

Our isolation and estrangement from one another prevents the disruption of systems of greed and cruelty.  Those who benefit from those systems are just fine with our hating each other without really knowing each other.

One way we’re priming for the next EX:Change is by asking the three change questions on this blog site.  As I mentioned last week [EX:C blog, “Marsha and Nancy:  How We Occupy Change,” 12-4-2011], I’m asking particular guest bloggers to lead us off, but inviting ALL OF YOU, to write answers of any length and forward them to me.   mary@exchange09.com

It’s ours to do.  We are completely up to the challenge, and the time is Right Now.

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